MARVEL’S “BLACK WIDOW” BRINGS A NEW TOUR OF FEMINISM
WRITTEN BY KIANA KARIMI – Flickering light, cries of starving and sleep-deprived young girls in tight crates, gunmen tearing each other apart from each other, their innocence slowly stripped in a twisted and tortuous cycle of violence … A frightening interpretation from Nirvana’s’ 90s hit song, “Teenage Spirit,” crosses the screen to the audience of Marvel’s “Black Widow,” with lyrics saying “hello, hello” to despair, despair and a new one. era of control through surveillance.
Marvel’s “Black Widow”, a feature film released on July 9, stars Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, our beloved Russian first female Avenger and a product of her country’s chess and corruption.
This is not a stereotypical film about empowering women. Romanoff is the victim of a tortured, traumatized and twisted past. And, although this is a movie, it shines a light on the reality of the country in which it is set. Watch this film and you will get a glimpse of the hardships of women and children who have been and still are sold and traded by Russia. Traditional privilege superheroes like Wonder Woman don’t represent the hard truths of society. That’s exactly what Romanoff does, with a main character who defies all odds by escaping the terrors of his past.
Here’s the plot: Romanoff returns and plans to destroy The Red Room, based on actual accounts of Soviet programs consisting of an all-female army trained to be spies and assassins during the Cold War.
The ominous opening montage of “Black Widow,” and the film in general, highlights a great real-life paradox: While Russian feminist efforts and female soldiers may have been heralded during the Soviet Union, their contributions are overshadowed by the trafficking industry. .
In the early 1900s, the Soviet Union was the world’s superpower closest to implementing progressive policies for women’s rights, including the right to vote. Women were encouraged to pursue and achieve all different levels of equality, such as pursuing male-dominated fields and higher levels of education. Defying gender norms during World War II, the Soviet government made the decision to allow women to serve in the Red Army. Almost a million Soviet women served and broke barriers (literally and figuratively). Pioneers such as Marina Raskova and Lyudmila Pavilchenko opened doors by working outside medical units during the war. Due to Pavilchenko’s extraordinary record as the world’s most decorated sniper and others trained like her, the Soviet Army has found that women perform specific roles better than men, especially as snipers. Raskova, a Russian navigator, pilot and teacher, founded three all-female regiments and was the first female pilot in the Russian Air Force.
Ironically, their contributions have done little to stop the further oppression of women. The fall of the Soviet Union crushed the Russian economy, dragging women into prostitution and trafficking.
Today, Russian women and children are sold in industry as part of an underground economy accounting for 44.7% of GDP in 2018. Under Vladimir Putin, the Russian government has established only one law that criminalizes trafficking, and the government has done little to prosecute. In 2020, the State Department identified the Russian government as one of ten countries supporting human trafficking. Russia is now categorized as a Level 3 country, defined as “countries whose governments do not fully meet the minimum TVPA standards and do not make significant efforts to do so.”
How could a country defending women’s rights have only one law on human and sexual trafficking? Who is responsible? Recently, investigators and organizations discovered that Russian officials “facilitated trafficking in Russia by facilitating the entry of victims into Russia, offering protection to traffickers and returning victims to their exploiters.”
Are women’s rights violated? It seems so. The Russian government decriminalized domestic violence as recently as 2017 with a law that classified domestic violence as “abuse that does not lead to fractures and does not occur more than once a year,” [and so] is no longer liable to a long prison sentence. The highest fine is equivalent to $ 500 and 10 to 15 days in jail. Russia, arguably one of the world’s three great hegemons, has no domestic violence law, and members of the government tout their anti-feminism as prioritizing “traditional family values.”
Feminists are fighting back. In turn, the Russian government is suing feminist groups and NGOs. Nasiliu.net, a leading non-profit organization that reaches and educates the Russian public on domestic violence, was added to Russia’s “list of foreign agents” in 2021. This new status obliges the feminist organization to be subject to “higher levels of bureaucratic control”. And so, Nasiliu.net cannot work to its full potential to protect women.
Moreover, with feminism being sadly labeled a “mortal sin” during the Pussy Riot trial in 2012, there is a serious danger of activist exhaustion. With government dissidents prosecuted and imprisoned, what hope remains?
Alternatively, however, many Russian women and organizations remain resilient during these difficult times. Despite the existential threat of reprisals, women continually mobilize to protest against the political system that persecutes “rebellious” women.
The status of women in Russia is a far cry from the progressive ideals implemented in the 1900s. The country which has seen many “firsts” for women has taken a turn for the worse. The frightening rise of anti-feminist affairs must be faced head-on, not just by such a successful American franchise as Marvel’s “Black Widow”. Hopefully, history, and Russian life, will emulate cinematic art.